The simple truth of Christmas

| Bishop Andrew Cozzens | December 22, 2016

When entering into the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, one has to duck because the door is smaller than a normal door. It was designed that way to keep people from bringing their camels into the church. This church has been continually in use for more than 1,700 years, and it looks like it.

The stone floor is worn flat by the millions of tourists. The walls and mosaics are darkened by the years of burning candles. The church is often busy, dirty and loud with tourists; you might say a very human place, but isn’t that the point of Christmas?

Beneath the main altar of the church is a stairway, which leads to a cave, a cave that one day, 2,000 years ago, served as a stable for animals. In that cave, there is a small altar, and underneath that altar is a circle that looks like a star.  Written in that circle are the words “Hic Jesus Christus natus est” (Here Jesus Christ was born).

What struck me when I saw that circle was not the fact that Jesus was born in that exact spot — the exact spot is rather accidental. What hit me was that the incarnation is so real, God’s love for us is so real, that you could draw a circle on the ground and say God was born here.

Too often we relate to Christmas like we relate to a fairy tale. It is like time out from the rest of reality. We choose to put our gripes behind us for a few days and act nice, and we like the warm feeling we get. But Christmas is exactly the opposite of a fairy tale. God took on human flesh so that we might know he is real. This means that our God is not a far off God. Our God is not distant from our daily realities. Rather, our God loved us so much that he entered the dirty din of our daily reality.

This is the fundamental difference between Christianity and all other religions. While all religions are an expression of the human heart’s natural desire for God, there is an essential point on which Christianity differs, a point that has almost always been a scandal to other religions. Christianity is the only religion where God longs for us enough to enter into our world and even to suffer its worst consequences in order to give us a share in his divine life.

In Jesus Christ, God comes close to us. He comes to speak to us, to touch us, to heal us and in the end, to show us how much he loves us by dying in our place to save us. He doesn’t take away our humanity or our suffering; rather, he enters into our human life and transforms it through his divinity into a way of love that leads to eternal life.

This is the simple truth of Christmas — a truth that pierces through all the complexities of our modern world. In the beginning and in the end and at every moment of our lives, God is with us, Emmanuel. There is no part of our humanity, especially the darkness of our hearts, that he does not want to enter into with the light of his grace. He can transform the dirty din of my daily life into something divine if I invite him to be born again today in my humble human heart.

La simple verdad de la Navidad

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Category: Only Jesus

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